A History Explained Better

For almost seventy years, the death of Jesús Menéndez Larrondo, famous leader of Cuban sugar workers and member and representative of the Communist Party, has never been properly investigated, not even by the most demanding Cuban historians of the era of the Republic and the Castro dictatorship. Jesús Menéndez was killed on January 22, 1948, shortly after reaching the age of 36.

Jesus Menéndez Larrondo (Philately)
Jesús Menéndez Larrondo (Philately)

Clearly, many historians only didn’t want to get into trouble with the government that restricts civil liberties, a fact that we are all well aware of. In reality, the urge to stay out of trouble is the very reason why there are still historical events, mostly those directly related to the Cuban Revolution, that need to be debunked, the truth still waiting to come out.

Only ten years ago, a history graduate of the University of Havana, Newton Briones Montoto, born in 1941, gained popularity after publishing several books and articles in the Revista Laical magazine, which have drawn attention of those who love and respect the history of our country above anything.

In the EcuRed encyclopaedia you can still read the same old thing: Jesus Menendez was assassinated by Joaquin Casillas, high member of the Army, by order of Ramon Grau. Yet, Newton claims in his article that it is “a history badly explained”, an incorrect interpretation of the event, and insists on clarifying it, regardless of being looked down upon as a result, or even greeted with fear. Owing to the length of elapsed time and considerable number of documents in battered files that he had to analyse, his work wasn’t easy at all. He worked with great patience, trying hard to clarify the circumstances leading to the notorious murder.

Newton explains that the communist leader got into a quarrel with several soldiers on the platform of the Manzanillo train station (current province of Granma) after an attempt to organize a workers’ strike for better salaries without a permission of the authorities.

In the quarrel, as the official testimony of the Investigations Bureau says, it was Menendez who challenged Captain Casillas, who took out his revolver and fired two shots, wounding one of the soldiers. Finally, Casillas fired on Menéndez, hitting him with three of the eight shots he fired.

Just a few days ago, on December 14 this year, the Canal 6 channel of the Cuban TV paid homage to Jesus Menendez in commemoration of the anniversary of his birth. Many people must have been taken by surprise by the fact that no reference whatsoever was made to the famous assassination in any part of the programme.

Thus, it is quite likely that Newton managed to achieve his goal by pointing out that history cannot be imposed, it needs to be investigated in order to “gain the voice it deserves” in the end. He confessed that to be able to write his books, he “had to rise above more than a few statements of other historians”, because if he had accepted them, he “would have repeated the mistakes made by them”.

*Reference:

Article “La muerte de Jesús Menéndez: Una historia mal contada” (Death of Jesus Menendez: A History Badly Explained), written by Newton Briones Montoto, No. 2, Revista Espacio Laical, 2016

TaniaDiazCastroReciente

Tania Díaz Castro (*1939) is co-founder of National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. For over two decades she was reporter for official magazines. In 1980's she spent 18 months in jail for joining Human Rights Party.